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Messi fires Barca to dominant Cup final win
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 18 - 04 - 2021

Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona thrashed Athletic Bilbao 4-0 in Saturday's Copa del Rey final to win the trophy for a record-extending 31st time, Reuters reported.
Antoine Griezmann put a dominant Barca ahead on the hour when he turned in a cross from Frenkie de Jong, who then doubled the Catalans' lead three minutes later.
Messi received some rough tackles from Athletic but got his revenge with a spectacular goal in the 68th, tearing his way through Athletic's defense down the right wing and combining with De Jong before dancing around another defender to slot into the net.
Barca's captain struck again four minutes later when he met a low cross from Jordi Alba and fired into the bottom corner, his shot proving too powerful for Athletic keeper Unai Simon.
The victory came at a crucial time for both the club and their superstar. It is Barcelona's first title since winning the Spanish league in 2019. Ronald Koeman, a former Barcelona defender, secured his first title since returning to coach the club last summer.
Barcelona's record 31st cup comes after Barcelona has seen its finances badly damaged by the pandemic. Its president Josep Bartomeu was forced to resign after the team's poor performance last season and alleged administrative irregularities. Bartomeu has denied any wrongdoing.
But the peak of the club's crisis came last summer when Messi said that he wanted to put an end to his highly successful two decades with Barcelona. Since then, he has only said he will make a decision when his contract is up at the end of this season.
"It's very special to lift this Cup as captain of this club, it's a very happy day for this group," said Messi. For Joan Laporta, who returned to the club's presidency last month, Messi should have an easy choice ahead of him.
"Leo is the best player in the world, Leo has deep roots in this club, and I am convinced that he wants to stay," Laporta said. "We will do all we can for him to stay with us. That is what we most want. And today Messi gave a master class of soccer while being supported by a great team."
Bilbao has now lost two Copa del Rey finals this month at La Cartuja Stadium in Seville. Bilbao lost 1-0 to Real Sociedad just two weeks ago when they met in the 2020 final that had been postponed due to the pandemic. Sociedad's reign as Copa champion lasted all of 14 days. — Agencies


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